Read our 7 Tips for Developmental Editing

Most people believe that editing is correcting grammatical and spelling mistakes. Professionals in publishing industry call it copyediting. However, there is also content or developmental editing, which is used to correct weak points in the text. According to highly experienced and professional editor, Adam O’Connor Rodriguez, developmental editing is a complicated subject because it is considered an artwork. In addition, one cannot find manual to developmental editing. The best way to learn such type of editing is through experience. Remember that developmental editing is an essential skill highly demanded in the publishing industry. So, to get started, read the below tips for developmental editing:

1. Your inner copyeditor should be restrained. One cannot focus on issues related to the narrative level and become bogged down in correcting line-level edits at the same time. Remember that the developmental editor should pay attention to the following aspects:   

  • Paper Structure: Does the story sequence work well, or is it better to improve it? Does the paper start and finish in the correct place? Are the story parts long or short? Do they seem to be to slow or too fast? Is it better to reorder or cut any part of the story? Is there a need to add anything to the written story? 
  • Narrative Aspect: Have you found any weak inconsistencies or spots in the story? Do you need to resolve any confusing plot lines or maybe it is better to cut them? Have you noticed anything that looks and sounds unrealistic?   
  • Proper Language: Have you found any repeated words in the paper? Is description overwhelming or is it necessary to add more description? Is the number of modifiers too large? Do you need to include more modifiers? Has the author overused passive voice? Has the author demonstrated his/her best language elements?  
  • Dialogue: have you noticed the filler words? Does the paper contain a dialogue that does not help to develop the story? Is it possible to predict the story? Can you recognize the cliché in the paper? Are the voices of characters consistent? Has the author managed to successfully portray the accent?
  • Characters: do you find the story characters developed or underdeveloped in relation to their story roles? Do they act and think logically in the story? Have you noticed some unnecessary characters?

2. The main goal of every developments editor is to help the story to become the best one. The list provided above may make one think that the main objective of a developmental editor is to rewrite and tear the paper apart. However, developmental editors pay close attention to well written things in the paper as well encouraging the author to play to the strong points in the paper. Despite the fact that the very first draft may be too rough, a developmental editor needs to recognize its inner potential assist the author to develop his/her potential and make it real.   

3. Remember that you not the writer, you are the editor. It is not editor’s duty to ask the writer to rewrite the whole story in the way you believe is better. Your main duty is to refine and enhance the story in the way the author sees it. The line between taking over the story and editing is can be too thin. However, editors should remember that they are allowed to offer their professional advice.

4. Do not ask the author to get rid of the story and start writing something completely different. It is the main rule of every editor. Such advice is considered useless since it does not help the author.

5. It is vital to establish the proper communication tone with the author. This aspect is considered one of the most helpful in developmental editing. You need keep balance between expert authority, staunchest support and toughest critics. Experience is the best way to learn doing this.      

6. Effective editing is effective writing is effective reading. Your developmental editing skills will improve when you learn to detect good writing and the ways to reach it. The most efficient way to do it is to start reading the examples of top-notch quality writing. One can find such examples on the Internet, in your local library or ask your professor to give you such examples.

7. Do not use the literary criticism. The developmental editor needs comprehend the story on its own and not in the context of general cultural conversation. You should note that your main objective is to make the manuscript the improved version of itself. Do not make it similar to other already existing stories.      

Remember that the above provided list of tips will not make you the best developmental editor overnight. In case you are truly interested in becoming a successful developmental editor, read high quality writing, perform writing exercises, and look for an opportunity to provide critic to the manuscripts. Stay open to learning new thinks and constantly improving your skills. Experience is considered your teacher in any type of editing. Do not be afraid to improve your professional skills.